Lapid, Erdan: TV Tax Getting the Axe
Following the decision of a public committee led by former television broadcaster Ram Landes, the Israel Broadcasting Authority will be completely revamped, government officials said Thursday. In a press conference, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said that the situation at the IBA left no choice but to close it down and revitalize it.
The IBA is the government broadcaster responsible for TV station Channel One, and Israel Radio's seven radio stations. All Israelis who own a television, or who have a car (all of which are assumed to have radios) must pay a special annual tax to support the stations. Many Israelis complain that the IBA's broadcasts are left-leaning and do not represent their views.
The IBA is a perennial money-loser for the government, and a recent government report said that the Authority was owed over NIS 3.4 billion (nearly $1 billion) by Israelis who have not paid the TV and radio tax. The IBA has hired attorneys to reclaim that money, but the attorneys have so far been able to get just NIS 512 million – deducting from that fees of over 30% of the sums collected. In addition, the IBA is deeply in debt, and has far too many highly-paid employees who cannot be fired due to union rules.
The only solution, said Landes, was to shut the IBA down and reopen it under new rules and with new contracts. The revamping will save the government at least NIS 300 million a year in expenditures. The committee also recommended doing away with the TV tax, instead relying on commercial sponsorships for operating income.
The new IBA will include eight radio stations, and three television stations. In addition, the news department will be streamlined, with all reporters and stories originating in a single newsroom, for use by all the stations. One of the TV stations will be dedicated to Arabic speakers, with an expanded news format that will be broadcast by satellite throughout the Middle East.
Speaking before Thursday's event, Landes said that in order for the reforms to work, they would have to be implemented as a whole, and could not be looked upon as a series of individual decisions.
All of the IBA's 1,600 workers will be let go, with the government paying off their contracts and pensions. A portion of those workers will be rehired for the new IBA, said Erdan. The Histadrut has not yet commented on the decisions, although in recent months workers at the IBA's news department have been conducting sanctions and work slowdowns in protest over the anticipated changes.